The entrance looks like a service door against the back wall of a dining room. That’s on purpose. One of the goals for CLASSIFIED, a private restaurant run by United and OTG at Newark Airport is to stay off the radar. The space seats only 36 guests and access is limited; you have to “apply” for a reservation online to gain access. Prior to my recent flight from Newark to San Francisco I clicked the magic link and discovered I was eligible (I’m not too surprised, though I don’t expect it every trip). So I booked a table for one and headed to the airport an hour earlier than normal to see what the fuss was all about.
I’d seen the menu online previously and I’m familiar with the OTG iPad-as-a-menu service style. I mostly knew what I was getting in to food-wise. But I was very curious about the ambiance and how well they’d hold the exclusive feel of the space. Among other things I was one of only four tables seated during the time I was there.
There are, undoubtedly, some quirks with the service pattern. If you want tap water to drink that’s easy enough; the waiter just brings it over. If you want sparkling water you have to order it before they can serve it. For travelers unfamiliar with the OTG system that can make for an awkward situation, one that erodes the personal touch the space is supposed to deliver. Similarly, after I ordered the waiter came over to confirm everything, reading it off a portable device. If they’re going to have that in the space anyways then why not let the waiter handle the ordering from a more traditional menu arrangement? I know this is the OTG way, but – again – it takes away from the high class image the companies are trying to impart.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
The menu is broad and varied, though focused on American fare. Yes, there is a $140 surf-and-turf for two (huge bone-in ribeye steak plus a pair of lobster tails). That’s expensive, but not completely out of reason compared to a NYC steakhouse. There are also less expensive options, like a $20 hamburger or $20 wedge salad. Cheaper, but much closer to “airport pricing” on those options.
Beer and wine prices are similar to the other OTG shops in the terminal, which is to say definitely airport prices but not completely obscene.
And then there is the liquor list. I have no idea how much any of the dinks cost because the prices are not listed on the menu. That’s just obnoxious.
I do know that some mixers cost extra. Also obnoxious.
After scrolling through the menu a bit I eventually chose a fried chicken sandwich for lunch. It was spectacular. Seriously, this was a good piece of fried chicken. Properly moist thigh, fired up just right with spicy honey on top. I was hoping for passable; I got delicious.
Service with a smile
In addition to coming away sated food-wise, I was also mostly impressed with the service. It was a quiet time in the restaurant, no doubt, but the staff was attentive. The “regular” waiter was on top of things and seemed happy to be there (not always the case at EWR concessions). Plus, multiple different manager types came through at various points to make sure things were up to par. But the real service win came when I left.
One of the managers was out in the main restaurant area and asked how the meal was. My response was, “That sandwich is delicious.” He not only remembered which order was mine (and also had opinions on the sandwich) but asked follow-up questions about the product and the service. It was clear they are still tweaking the offerings and looking to improve things. When I mentioned that I needed a bucket of water on the table to keep my hands clean – like I said, delicious spicy honey sauce – he immediately seized on the opportunity to improve what was being offered. His version – a hot towel – is definitely smarter than mine and makes a ton of sense. That willingness to see that things can be improved and immediately translate it in to what a better experience would look like is impressive to me.
So if you get a hot towel with the fried chicken sandwich in the future, you’re welcome.
There is no doubt dining at CLASSIFIED can be a pricey proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. You can go in and just have a glass of wine or a cocktail (let me know what that costs!) and relax for a bit. There is music playing just lound enough that no one should be compelled to take a conference call while inside, a step up from the United Clubs. Plus, the food I had was legit tasty. I certainly don’t think it is an every trip experience and I imagine getting in during the evening TATL rush is harder. But eating there then sleeping on the plane would be a solid play for me.
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